What to Do If You Have the Coronavirus and Live Alone
On March 18, a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday, Fil Vocasek spiked a fever. He knows the exact date of onset because the single, asthmatic, Manhattan-based graphic designer had started taking his temperature every day as the number of New York Covid-19 cases began ticking upward. “I have a delicate respiratory system to begin with, and I thought chances were good that I’d get it,” he says. “I always get whatever’s going around.”
When his symptoms began, he called his regular doctor, who told him that New York City was only testing patients who went to the emergency room, so he should assume he was positive for Covid-19 and self-isolate.
In normal times, people can rely on the health care system to provide care if they get sick, but the pandemic has raised the bar on how severe symptoms need to become before a trip to urgent care or the emergency room is warranted. This means those who live alone, particularly those deemed high-risk due to underlying conditions such as asthma or diabetes, need to plan for how to nurse themselves should they fall ill — and how to establish a support system of friends, family, and health care providers to assist them from afar.
“You don’t have anyone to bounce things off of,” says Steve Ommen, MD, the associate dean of the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, acknowledging the unique home care challenges faced by those who live alone. “You may question whether you need to call or go in [to see a doctor], and you don’t have another person’s judgment and social support there to depend on.” And then there’s the burden of cooking, eating, and drinking enough fluids when you may feel too sick to even get out of bed as well as the psychological toll of isolation.
“We’re only hearing about the worst-case scenarios, not the people who feel crappy for a while and get better. So prepare for the worst, but don’t dwell on it.”
Being prepared to manage mild to moderate symptoms at home during the Covid-19 pandemic is crucial for all of us, whether we live alone or not.